Doers is now available on the Podcasts app for iOS! This means the podcast is available on Podcasts and Soundcloud as of now. Go check it out and subscribe.
Mathew Pregasen is the cofounder of Parsegon (https://www.parsegon.com), an ed-tech company that can translate typed language into symbols in live-time, and a student at Columbia University. Mathew and I discuss everything from his entrepreneurial familial background as the son of an immigrant-entrepreneur to his decision to learn how to code only after graduating high school.
Mathew provides some useful insight for young people interested in following in his steps, what he looks for when hiring talent at Parsegon and his other projects and companies he’s started, and where he sees Parsegon going in the near future.
You can check out Parsegon here.
Today, I tried a new format where I just hop right into the interview with the guest instead of offering my own introduction separately. Given that we open the conversation asking what the guest does, I figured this to be appropriate. If you disagree, leave a comment on the Soundcloud page letting me know!
Doers is now available on the iTunes store/the Podcast app on iOS. You can download it here.
“There’s no such thing as cheating in real life, that’s only in school.”
Isaac Morehouse is the CEO and Founder of Praxis — a nine-month startup apprenticeship program taking on the traditional path of higher education.
Isaac started Praxis with no outside capital, no grand plans to raise millions and take on the establishment, no buy-in from “experts” and “leaders” in education, and no back-up plan. He took the leap into a totally unexplored space with a wife and three children to support at the age of 30.
Isaac explores his background, upbringing, and the ideas that influenced him — and how he doesn’t naturally consider himself a Doer and had to train that into his habits around work.
Isaac’s philosophy on shipping to ship and treating life as a game has personally influenced me and is a big reason why Doers exists today. The End of School grew out of a Morehouseian challenge to write once a day for a given period of time. Since doing that, I find myself regularly producing content (whether blog posts, articles, books, or podcasts) at a higher frequency and at higher quality than before.
Books mentioned in the podcast:
How they Succeeded, Orison Swett Marden
The Act of Creation, Arthur Koestler
Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse
Isaac is on twitter @isaacmorehouse and writes at http://isaacmorehouse.com.
Tim Chermak is the embodiment of the Doers mindset. Having read about marketing and sales dozens of times over, Tim didn’t stop at just reading books and listening to podcasts. He went shop-to-shop in his hometown and began offering the services he read about. After plenty of rejections, he stumbled into success with real estate marketing and sales.
Tim and I discuss marketing (where most people go wrong and how to do it right), sales (how to get started in asking for money for your services), stumbling into success (Tim never planned on doing marketing for real estate), and investing in yourself.
Tim is also a contributor to Why Haven’t You Read This Book? His chapter, “Why Haven’t You Flown First Class?” is a great way of thinking about rationing your time and investing in yourself.
You can connect with Tim on Facebook here.
I hold a deep-seated belief that there are really only two types of people in this world: the people who do things and the people who watch people do things.
Most people fall into that second category. They get so caught up in making a living and going through the motions of life that they end up living in the world of the people who do things.
They say how great it would be to try something out or to start on a new project or to pick up a skill or jump into a career, but when push comes to shove, they don’t act.
These people live in the world of the Doers. They buy the products of the Doers, they admire their art, they read their books, and they watch their athletic competitions.
The Doers have a disproportionate impact on the lives of everybody else.
Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated by the Doers. These people seem to run on a different wavelength than everybody else, whether that’s in business, art, ideas, health, or any number of other areas. When others get caught up in “what if’s,” they decide to try things out.
I’ve purposely designed my life to be around these people. In my job, I get to interact with entrepreneurs and CEOs who started companies and with young people doing things now. I interact with intellectuals and artists who didn’t wait for somebody to tell them they should become leaders in their fields — they just chose to act.
And I want to share these people’s stories.
Doers is a weekly podcast exploration of the stories, habits, and visions of people who show an unusual bias for action. I’ve already interviewed intellectuals, entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, data scientists, and craftsmen who are leaders among their peer groups. We explore what makes them tick, what helped them develop their bias for action, and what ultimately sets them apart from everybody else.
Episodes are released weekly and are 45 minute- ~1 hour interviews.
You can find the feed on SoundCloud here. Coming soon to the Podcast app.
I love Thanksgiving and Christmas. These two holidays capture everything I find inspiring about the human spirit and the culture around them has a tendency to bring out the best in people.
Between the two of them, Thanksgiving is too often dismissed as the beginning of the Christmas season or, even worse, the “opportunity” to come together and argue with distant relatives about the outcome of some political Hunger Games over which nobody at the table had a significant say. The idea of being grateful or giving thanks for the time together is referenced sarcastically or not at all.
This is a disappointing state of affairs because there is so much potential in the concept of Thanksgiving and this potential is actively within the control of the people who dread the holiday.
I am naturally a night-owl. Some of my biggest moments of productivity and inspiration used to come late at night, working at my desk, while everybody else was asleep. I would work furiously at the computer in the dark, knowing I was less likely to be disturbed or distracted by others and knowing that, if I just squeezed in that moment of great productivity before the day was over, I would sleep better that night. I remember days during high school and college where I would start on a project around midnight and finish it around 2:30 or 3, with 1:30-3 being the most productive hours of the day. The rest of the world seems to stop at this time and you can focus on what you need to accomplish.
Eventually, the wheels come off — and they did in my case.
A combination of factors just did not make night-owl work sustainable for my life. Working with people on the West Coast and some other night owls meant that my hours of productivity could be interrupted by emails, Slack messages, and phone calls. Spending a sizable chunk of my time as a professional emailer meant that I needed to be up and working before the start of business on the east coast, lest my email response time slip. Travel between different time zones sapped energy from me. Throw in a few family crises and trying to run two startups at once and I found myself reacting to the world around me more than creating it. I barely had energy when the day ended to squeeze in that productivity, even in a day that was “productive” for work. Not to mention that I had no opportunity to maintain and improve my health.
I found myself in a state of reacting to the world around me, losing the power and energy that has brought me so far and fueled much of my drive. All the productivity hacks and time management tools in the world couldn’t save me.
Why? The issue wasn’t too little time, the issue was too little control over what was happening in my life. Time was just a secondary factor.
What I needed was an opportunity to assert control and to remind myself that I am the one who determines my day-to-day — that my life is designed by me.
I could have just done anything crazy to assert this control (and this is, I believe, what drives a lot of seeming-mental breakdowns in people who are really stressed — their unconscious knows they need to re-assert control and looks for the easiest way to do that).
The secondary element that this assertion needed was an element of discipline. I’ve noted the importance of asserting discipline through small actions before here and tested this theory on myself. I find it useful to remind oneself every day of the power that the individual has over his own life, even if that is through little things like waking up early or abstaining from certain food or drink.
Through discipline comes freedom.
The easiest way for me to assert control over my life, rebuild my strong sense of personal discipline, and regain those hours of the day where I can work without interruption is simple: wake up early. For extra discipline and emphasis, wake up really early.
It wasn’t like I am somebody who slept until 9 AM, anyway. I woke up at a health 7:30 or so after ~7 hours of sleep. I relished in those hours of the day when I could work, read, or write without interruption, though, and the only way to gain those was to wake up before all of my colleagues or business partners.
I remembered one successful businessman in particular with whom I work and the feeling I had when I saw that he replied to my emails at 5 AM in the morning. At first, I was a little shocked that a man who ran three profitable businesses could wake up that early with ease. I then realized that this sense of discipline was what made it possible for him to run these businesses.
I committed to waking up well before anybody I work with (or, at least, wake up before they start working) and set on giving myself buffer time, so I chose 4:00 AM.
4:00 AM was early enough to let me get moving on my day without having to stress about, “oh, can I squeeze in a workout?” or, “oh, will I have time to read today?” or, “will I have time to get through my emails from the night before before new ones roll in?”
Knowing that I am most productive with 7 hours of sleep, I tried to get to sleep by 9 PM for about a week. Even with the use of melatonin, this wasn’t easy. I got up a few days around 4:30 without the energy I was hoping to find.
After focusing on forcing the transition with sheer force of will, I decided to alter my diet. I wasn’t eating unhealthily, but I experimented with reducing my net carbohydrate intake to fewer than 60g/day and found that I could get as much energy from 5.5-6 hours of sleep as I got from 7 hours when I was consuming my usual diet. This let me get to bed at 10 PM and get up around 4 with the energy I needed.
I threw in anaerobic and aerobic exercise (with ~30g of carbohydrates) between 4:15 and 5:15 to give me a burst of energy and start the day in a productive state.
An unintended consequence of this has been a reduction in my coffee consumption. I used to drink coffee after the first 15 minutes or so of waking up. Now, I get the energy that coffee simulates through physical exercise and don’t find myself wanting a cup until 10:30 or so, and usually to accompany food.
This has by far been the best change I have made to my day-to-day life in years. This small physiological change positively impacts my mental and psychological drive and energy throughout the day and makes me resilient to busy days that take up a large chunk of my time and schedule.
Typical Morning Schedule
4:00 AM — Wake up
4:05 AM — Eat (oatmeal with heavy cream)
4:10 AM — Leave to gym (walk/jog)
4:15 AM — Aerobic exercise (jog)
4:35 AM — Anaerobic exercise (weight circuit or HIIT)
5:15 AM — Return home
5:30 AM — Read or write
6:05 AM — Shower (I didn’t think was necessary to add, but some comments on social media made me think otherwise)
6:15 AM — Respond to Emails/Send Urgent/Important emails
6:45 AM — Go to beach and/or office
8:30 AM — Begin “work day”
Again, by far the most useful change I have made in my life. I get that not everybody “needs” to be a morning person, but if you are struggling to find the drive and energy in your day that you know you have, I recommend trying this out for a few weeks.
Originally, I was going to talk about optionality and education, but most of the discussion focused on the example of going to medical school as a way of planning way too far into the future and actually closing off doors that you could have left open to yourself.
As I’ve written before (see “optionality” in search bar), people confuse school with education and more schooling with more options in their lives. I meet dozens of young people every quarter who are continuing their schooling in the hopes that it will open up more doors for them in the future. What those doors are, they do not know.
Education does open up opportunities — if you don’t know how to do things, you can’t do them — but school and education are not the same thing.
For example, in the amount of time it takes you to go to medical school, do your internship, residency, and land a job, your field will have changed so much that you will be entering an entirely different realm than you thought you were. All the while, you could have spent that time, money, and energy learning other things that would open up doors for you in the interim period. You end up falling behind on your education in your pursuit of school.
I wrote a somewhat-cathartic blog post over at the Praxis site yesterday about why young people should be more open and honest about their ambition.
I think young people who can otherwise be more ambitious like to hedge their ambition for a few reasons, none of them particularly good upon examination:
- If you don’t show your hand, nobody can know when you fail. This is probably the most common reason that high-achievers don’t broadcast bigger ambitions; they aren’t used to failure. They may have a goal to build a billion-dollar business or to publish a number of best-selling books someday, but if they announce that to people before it happens and then it never materializes, they end up looking like idiots.
- I don’t like this one because, although it makes the most sense to me, I think that downplaying your ambitions has an adverse psychological effect on yourself. As you continue to repeat that your ambitions aren’t as high or aren’t as big as you’d like, you will start aiming for those lower ambitions in time. If you contradict those lower ambitions in your thought and behavior, you still have to deal with the fact that you are actively contradicting yourself, which has confusing psychological effects.
- Even if you don’t hit those goals, ask yourself, “What’s the big deal?” Lots of people fail at the first few attempts at anything (failure is a necessary condition for learning quickly and effectively). Instead, ask yourself, “What’s the worst and best that could happen if I set my goals high?” and “What’s the worst and best that could happen if I set my goals low?”
- In the first case, the worst that could happen is that you swing for the fences and miss. You are allowed to take more than one swing, so you correct course and try again. If you swing for the fences and hit, you achieve something very few people ever achieve.
- In the second case, the worst that could happen is you swing and miss. The best that could happen is you swing and achieve something most other people achieve.
- The point of this analogy is that setting big goals is not a necessary and sufficient condition for success but it is a necessary condition. Nobody has ever accidentally become successful.
- Broadcasting ambitions before you have achieved anything else comes off as arrogant and cocky. Nobody wants to look like they think they can actually build that billion-dollar business (or whatever the goal is).
- The best way to think of this one is to ask yourself, “Do I really want the approbation of people who think that ambition is generally cocky?” We grow up being taught these stories of great men and women who moved mountains and achieved so much in their lifetimes and are then taught that it is haughty to want to model them. “Better lower your ambitions, kid, because life will beat you down.”
- At best, this is a cynical approach to the world. At worst, it crushes the human spirit. Even if the world can be harsh on people and even if everybody doesn’t achieve their goals, that doesn’t mean that once we fail to achieve those ambitions our lives are over and we are complete and total failures. People who are psychologically spritely know how to shift their goals at failures and take them as learning opportunities to move on to the next ambition.
- Big ambition implies the chances for big failure. Young people are insulated from and avoid failure for the first 16-22 years of their lives and want to avoid rejection when possible. Applying for that exclusive job or going for that big deal means that you could lose them. Nobody wants to experience that, so they hedge.
- Like 1 and 2, the question here needs to be asked as “compared to what?” Yes, losing that big deal does hurt, but the deal can never be had or lost in the first place if you don’t go for it.
- Failure is a natural part of learning and, while it should be minimized within reason, is a process through which you can learn, correct course, and move forward.
- Big failure is not debilitating. Even complete, total failure in the modern United States isn’t that bad. The bottom isn’t that far and you can always pick yourself back up and get moving again.
Cherishing the ambition you have as a young person is a powerful tool. It is the spark that sets apart all of the hard-working young people with whom I am excited about working. If you want to set yourself apart in the long run, don’t like that spark die out.
A lot of the most successful people I know have habits that appear odd at first glance. They may eat an inordinate number of pistachios and eat no carbs (or, even odder, somehow eat only carbs and maintain great shape), they may wake up two hours before the sun comes up, they may consume only certain drinks, they may only use a certain type of pen, etc. These odd habits are not a function of their success — being successful probably didn’t make them odd — and they are not the cause of their success.
Instead, I think peculiar habits are a product (and at the same time, a creator, of) discipline.
The one common theme I have noticed among all of the successful people I know is that they are more disciplined than their less-successful peers. This may not be in every part of their lives — Marc Andreessen talks on the Tim Ferriss show about how he shows up to work at 9 and filled full of coffee for the rest of the day. But he is surely more disciplined when it comes to investing and to building a tech company than most people who try.
If you want to develop that sense of discipline that unites the successful, start small. Decide you’ll write once a day (recommendation from my friend Isaac), go to the gym once a day, wake up an hour earlier, or change your eating habits. You’ll find that as you do these little things more often, doing things that require more discipline become easier.
Send me comments and hatemail here.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, there are multiple ways all over this site that you can sign up for my email list, like the bar at the top of the page and the email capture that may or may not have appeared when you opened this page.
I don’t do this to spam you or to sell you anything. I do this because I want to build a community of people who are interested in taking control of their lives and being in the pilot’s seat. The emails I send to the list are not formatted or sent out through a mass-emailer. I open up a new message in gmail and copy and paste all of your email addresses into BCC and start typing. This is a real, organic email from me.
Some of the perks of signing up:
- Advance notice and sneak-peeks of new content I am releasing, like two forthcoming ebooks (hint, hint) and the foreword to the 2016 edition of John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down.
- Free content that you would otherwise have to buy from Amazon (hint, hint).
- Advance notice of talks happening in your area.
- Exclusive recaps of talks I am giving that week.
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I hope to add even more special content in the future. I promise not to spam you and won’t send emails just for the sake of sending them. If you like what I have to say and post here, why not sign up? You can always unsubscribe in the future.
I couldn’t be more excited to publicly announce that I had the honor of writing the foreword to the 25th Anniversary Edition of John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. If you’ve never read this book, place a pre-order for the new edition now.
If you have read the book, buy a few copies to give to friends and family. Give it to teachers, parents, and student you know. Gatto was New York state’s Teacher of the Year when he publicly resigned in disgust after decades of teaching. Convinced that school is not broken but systematically working towards the ends for which it was designed, he spent the rest of his career documenting his teaching career and writing a history of compulsory school.
You can get a copy of my foreword to the 25th Anniversary Edition direct to your inbox by signing up for my email list at the bar at the top of the screen or in the lower right-hand corner by Friday, October 14.
Here are a few updates from what I’ve been up to (or others have been up to relevant to me) in the past week.
I joined The School Sucks Project podcast today to talk credentialing, career success, schooling (and deschooling) and so much more. If you aren’t familiar with SSP and enjoy my writing on education, do check it out. It is a phenomenal project. You can listen here or on iTunes.
I released a few more short recordings. If you enjoy these recordings, subscribe to my email list (above) and let me know. I may have a cool project coming down the pipeline…
On fulfillment and the difference between being reactive and proactive:
The truth about college earnings reports:
Today’s recording focuses on politicians…sort of. It’s important to understand that they are people like you and I — they want to keep their jobs and they want to make money. They aren’t some kind of altruistic civically-minded Ubermenschen. No effective politician is. Once you understand this, you unlock a lot of possibilities for changing political outcomes without changing politicians.
Intro segment: Clint Webb for Senate, from Whitest Kids U Know
Send me feedback here.
People like to paint college admissions as this process of being the objectively smartest or the objectively most virtuous when it is really like any other system out there, one driven by the interests of the decision makers.
I go into three areas of the college admissions process and explain how to understand them:
- Getting In
- Understanding Acceptance Rates (and Why Colleges That Want to Reject You Want You to Apply)
- Understanding Selection Bias
Feedback, comments, and hatemail can be sent to me here.
Today’s recording focuses on why good teachers can’t fix “broken” schools — and why bad teachers aren’t the problem with schools.
The opening excerpt is from the School Sucks Project, here.
Comments, concerns, and hatemail can be sent to me here.
John Taylor Gatto’s books can be found on Amazon here.
Today’s audio blog is about how you change policy by making things politically unprofitable for the wrong people instead of focusing on getting the right people into office.
Today’s audio blog is in reaction to a sentiment I’ve seen some friends share – “You don’t hate Mondays, you hate capitalism.”
My response is simple: you don’t hate either of these, you hate your job.
The good news is, you can change this. You can stop hating it or you can quit.
Here are some resources referenced in the conversation:
The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Udemy for learning new skills
Stoicism: books by Seneca
Stoicism: books by Epictetus
Deskboubnd: Standing Up to a Sitting World by Kelly Starrett
Thanks to Isaac Chapman for some feedback on audio quality. If you have feedback, leave a comment on Soundcloud or shoot me an email here.
Today’s audio blog is an expansion on the post below.
Enjoy. Please feel free to leave feedback on this format either on Soundcloud or by emailing me. I’m still experimenting with audio approaches.
I was giving a talk at Floria Gulf Coast University the other night near Fort Myers when I noticed a flyer on the door of the lecture hall. The sign (I wish I had gotten a picture now) read: “PARENT FREE ZONE.”
I chuckled at first, thinking it was more of a tongue-in-cheek joke to new freshmen who were used to having their parents around. Then my stomach sank when I had the realization that it probably wasn’t a joke.